In The Know: Hulbert schools implement mask mandate as cases grow | Tulsa doctor: Latest COVID-19 wave is ‘tragic’ | More

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Oklahoma News

Gov. Kevin Stitt, attorney general condemn Oklahoma school district’s mask mandate: Gov. Kevin Stitt and Attorney General John O’Connor reprimanded a small eastern Oklahoma school district for its strict masking policy on Thursday — a day after the federal government admonished the state for discouraging mask mandates in schools. Stitt and O’Connor said Hulbert Public Schools violated state law Wednesday night when its school board voted in favor of a masking requirement for all students and staff. Senate Bill 658 blocks local school boards from implementing a mask requirement unless the governor issues a state of emergency for the school district’s area. [The Oklahoman] O’Connor said the law is constitutional and that the state is fighting a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality. [AP News]

  • Hulbert defies state with mask mandate; Governor, AG suggest school board decision can be ignored [Tahlequah Daily Press] | [Tulsa World]
  • Small Oklahoma school districts begin closures, shifts to distance learning as COVID-19 cases surge [KJRH]
  • COVID test positivity for kids is at 22% and the future is uncertain [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Hofmeister: school boards ‘best suited to address’ masking in schools [StateImpact Oklahoma] | [AP News]
  • TPS returns under expectation everyone wears a mask to limit spread of COVID-19 [Public Radio Tulsa] | [Tulsa World]
  • Unaffected by school mask mandate ban, Oak Hall continues implementing COVID-19 guidelines [The Daily Ardmoreite]

First wave of COVID-19 deaths was ‘sad,’ but delta ‘now is tragic,’ Tulsa ICU doctor says: The picture the ICU medical director painted of his unit under the ongoing onslaught of COVID-19’s delta variant was grim: Almost all of the patients he sees are unvaccinated, and given delta’s reach to younger populations, its victims are more often leaving behind spouses, children and decades of life unlived. “I’ve had numerous husbands and wives that have died together in the ICU; I’ve got two postpartum mothers whose infants may never meet their mothers,” Worley said. “Twenty-year-olds, 30-year-olds, 40-year-olds are dying. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by over 270% in the last month [The Frontier]
  • COVID patients fill 1 in 5 hospital beds, doctors and nurses ‘shouldn’t have to be doing this again’ [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Amid debates of city response to delta variant, what is it leaders agree on? Mayor Bynum shares his take [Tulsa World] | [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma man survives COVID-19, but at a steep physical and financial cost [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Suicide in Oklahoma: The Latest Data and Search For Solutions: Oklahomans are hurting. And the pandemic exasperated that pain. Last year, 883 Oklahomans died by suicide. One of them was an 8-year-old boy. Another was a 94-year-old man. Oklahomans of all walks of life are effected by suicide. But in the past several years, suffering has increased at a higher rate in some communities. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Government News

Unemployment claims continue to decline in state; four-week average hits pandemic low: First-time unemployment claims declined by 8% in Oklahoma last week from the previous week, while the four-week moving average of initial claims here hit a 17-month low, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 3,521 Oklahoma workers filed initial claims for unemployment benefits the week ending Saturday. That is down from the upwardly revised figure of 3,838 the prior week. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: State must coordinate COVID relief funding: After a tornado rips through an Oklahoma community, the recovery requires the coordination of construction crews, financing, immediate relief paired with long-term recovery supports to get residents back into the safety and security of their homes and communities. The same is true for the COVID-19 pandemic, a traumatic public health event and life storm that has swept the foundation out from under many families and communities. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Stitt, Lankford Say Oklahoma Welcomes Afghan Refugees: Two prominent Republican voices in Oklahoma said Wednesday the state should and will welcome Afghan refugees who assisted the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and are now seeking safety from the new Taliban government. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Campaigning with Lankford, Pompeo criticizes Afghanistan withdrawal [The Oklahoman]
  • Lankford visits Enid, discusses various topics [Enid News & Eagle]

Bice roundtable highlights small biz owner concerns: Concerns about the pandemic and its impact on businesses and the workforce was the main issue addressed Friday at the Small Business Roundtable with U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, held at Project 3810 and sponsored by the Northwest Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. [The Southwest Ledger]

Tribal Nations News

Experts: Supreme Court could clarify McGirt ruling, won’t overturn it: It’s unlikely a majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices would overturn their recent ruling that large swaths of Eastern Oklahoma remain Native American reservations despite continued challenges and appeals to do so from state leaders, legal experts say. [CNHI via The Ada News]

Criminal Justice News

Second stand your ground hearing paused in Creek County murder case: On Thursday, a judge cited evidentiary issues and the unavailability of a witness when he halted the second stand your ground hearing in a Creek County murder case where the defendant claims he killed in defense of himself and his family at a 2020 Labor Day party. [NonDoc]

The Source Podcast: A deeper look into the hostage situation at Oklahoma County’s jail: It’s been five months since a detention officer was taken hostage in Oklahoma County’s jail, an incident that left one inmate dead and raised serious questions about the safety of those inside. Investigative reporter Nolan Clay wrote a three-part series this week based on hundreds of pages of documents, offering the clearest glimpse yet into that harrowing day. [The Oklahoman]

Jail consultants, task force, report to Criminal Justice Advisory Council: The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice Advisory Council (CJAC) met at the Oklahoma City Convention Center Thursday to hear substantial updates on research about the Oklahoma County Detention Center or Jail. [OKC Free Press]

Tulsa ranks in the top 10 in the country for police shooting rates: According to Police Scorecard, Tulsa ranks #7 in the nation for police shooting rates per 10,000 arrests. On average, for every 10,000 arrests there are seven shootings by Tulsa police. Columbus, Ohio ranks #1 with 14 police shootings for every 10,000 arrests. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Economy & Business News

Some Oklahoma landowners see fight against electric transmission line as battle against Goliath: Transource Energy, an electric company based in Ohio, is planning to build a $100 million, 80-mile electric transmission line from Noble County to just west of Sand Springs by 2025, and some residents whose property it could cross feel hopeless. [Tulsa World]

Federal case highlights problems with cannabis banking: Between May 29, 2019 and Jan. 22, 2020, the owner of a medical marijuana business laundered about $770,000 through a bank account he had falsely claimed was for a wellness company, according to federal prosecutors. [The Journal Record]

General News

Justice for Greenwood group wants federal oversight of Tulsa’s 1921 Graves Investigation: The Justice for Greenwood Foundation wants federal oversight of the City of Tulsa’s 1921 Graves Investigation. An attorney who leads the foundation said the organization has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking the federal agency to investigate the city’s graves project and ultimately take it over. [The Oklahoman]

The rich legacy of Tulsa’s Black entrepreneurship: The Frazier family’s business dream started with ketchup. Most people use the tomato condiment to doctor up either a hot dog, hamburger or to smother fried potatoes. But the Frazier’s looked at a bottle of Heinz 57 and saw something more significant – the base for a product that could eventually give them multigenerational wealth. [The Oklahoma Eagle]

Documentary about state’s largest Civil War clash set for premiere: A new documentary about the largest Civil War battle in what is now Oklahoma will make its public debut this month. The Oklahoma Historical Society announced that “The Battle of Honey Springs” will premiere Aug. 28 at the Honey Springs Battlefield Visitor Center, with five screenings, followed by a program and reception with the filmmakers and actors. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma’s Gift to Ballet: The Five Moons Ballerinas: At the first Oklahoma Indian Ballerina Festival, in 1957, its founder, Moscelyne Larkin, danced Myrtha in Act Two of “Giselle” and Maria Tallchief performed an excerpt from “Swan Lake.” It was a festival created to honor five Native American ballerinas, all hailing from Oklahoma. But it would take 10 years, and the premiere of a ballet, “The Four Moons,” for the festival to really celebrate the dancers’ heritages as well as their artistry. [New York Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • ‘A lot of quality-of-life enhancements’ happening in Kingfisher [NonDoc]
  • City of OKC employees must resume wearing masks at work [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office sergeant dies of COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Advocates for Tulsa’s firefighters urge action as low salaries lead to shortages [The Black Wall Street Times]
  • Former state Sen. Paul Muegge, crusader for environmental causes, dies at 84 [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“If I could go back, I would’ve taken the vaccine.” 

-COVID-19 survivor Joshua Price, who spent 50 days in the hospital after contracting the virus. A self-professed conservative, Price encouraged Oklahomans to heed the advice of medical professionals, not the calls of conspiracy theorists, and take action “anyway possible you can to prevent this from happening to you and your family.” [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans who identified as Black alone or in combination during the 2020 Census, an increase of 16.8% from the 2010 Census. [U.S. Census Bureau

Policy Note

Multiracial population grew in almost every county in the US. It doesn’t mean racism is over: The figures released by the Census Bureau show that the multiracial population in almost every county in the United States grew between 2010 and 2020. In Puerto Rico, half of the people said they were more than one race — a trend that demographers say happened across the US as people shifted to multiracial identities. [CNN]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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